I Thought the Greeks Lost

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22 Responses

  1. cn says:

    Except that the Roshei Yeshivos spoke quite differently in BME .sorry

  2. Miriam says:

    I would say without hesitation that in the overwhelming majority of cases, their homes are more strictly observant than those of their parents. Their immersion in the world of general knowledge did not erode their level of observance.

    Because they had far more opportunities for learning than their parents. So the point here is that for their generation secular studies did not prove to be a poison – but there’s no proof it was an outright positive (excepting that making a living might be a very constructive way to live one’s life).

    Certain behaviors were considered to be “conduct unbecoming” a Torah Vodaath boy and this self-imposed and accepted code was a great source of support during the times we found ourselves on the college campus….Personally, I doubt that the yetzer hara is stronger than it was then; it is the methodology that has changed.

    Sending a young adult into a co-ed secular environment isn’t so simple – maybe the code of interaction between the sexes was far more distant 35 years ago. But even 20 years ago with the open and friendly and “what’s wrong with it” society, anyone whose tendency was to be friendly and chessed-oriented innocently but quickly found themselves in too much of the wrong company. Even more so the dangers of the environment today. (Reminds me of – a granddaughter of a Torah V’Daas Rebbe! – who entered the same high-profile work environment that I did, although she decided from the outset she didn’t care what they thought of her when she avoided the social events, kept out of the secular chit-chat, left at 5 on the nose…. she’s still there and now a VP!)

    Today a bachur who leaves the beit midrash to study or work is burdened by a sense of guilt….

    Yes if elsewhere on this site Rabbi Menken (or was it YM, if they are different people) can comment that he feels he hasn’t achieved much in learning after keeping only a 1.5 hour daily seder for 15 years, we are definitely doing ourselves a disservice. Now that yeshiva learning into adulthood is accessible to almost everyone, our community has shifted its goals so that parenting classes teach that our central goal is to raise (a) boys to become the next Gadol HaDor and (b) girls to be their supportive Rebbetzins. Whatever happened to the simple righteousness of sewing every stitch into that shoe just right?

    Since when did we accept the Greeks’ approach that success in life is established through objective competition? Why should we believe that he who knows the most, learns the longest sedarim, is the most widely quoted Rav, becomes the (only) winner?

  3. L. Oberstein says:

    I asked a retired businessman who learned in Lakewood in the time of Rav Aharon if it is true that he was against secular studies in high school/ He told me that this is false, that Rav Aharon was very practical and he understood that not everyone will stay in learning for life and that people need an eucation for a livlihood. Rav Moshe Heinemann told me something similar. I think that it is the influence of Brisk, not the influence of Rav Aharon that has transformed American Chareidi orthodoxy. True, Rav Aharon did not like college,but he never thought that the average boy should be deprived of a high school education. as i am told by my more in th loop chareidi colleagues, the American Agudah is suffering from the fact that the young Roshei Yeshiva are to the right of the Agudah . I wold love to understand what Brisk offers that has made it the dominant strain in the yeshiva world.

  4. Yossie Abramson says:

    YTV and Chaim Berlin, jointly filed an application with the NYS Board of Regents to form a college, which was going to proceed until R’ Kotler voiced his opposition.

  5. MF says:

    I am curious if you can provide sources for the first part of your article (besides for Aphikay Yam).

    P.S. It was Yogi, not Casey. (think: “the future ain’t what it used to be” and “it gets late early over there” and “it’s so pact no one goes there”).

  6. dr. bill says:

    i think it is useful to separate two issues, one practical and universal the other theoretical and particular.

    The practical and universal issue is how to educate your children to have a productive role in the workplace. The challenges may well be greater, but the need particularly in a Jewish State is more acute where a full complement of skills is required for the functioning of a society. Resolving or at least making progress on this issue is critical, pressing and possible.

    The theoretical and particular issue is how to understand chazal’s ambivalence towards secular culture, praise for (certain) areas of secular wisdom and clear emphasis on the primacy of Torah. Frankly, for most people understanding what impact Shmuel’s knowledge of astronomy or the Gaon’s knowledge of mathematics had on their halakhic/hashkafic insights is of limited interest at best. (You can fit the number of people who know approximately as much astronomy and/or mathematics into a very small meeting room!) The meaning of terms like gufai halakha with respect to kinnim and pischai nidah (PA 3:18) or hafoch bah ve hafoch bah ki kulo bah (PA5:22) affects a few individuals and frankly, the debate as to what is being said has gone on for centuries. Resolving these issues are neither critical nor pressing nor possible.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    At a minimum, any general knowledge picked up along the way, whether in an academic setting or not, ought to be true according to the Torah standard. True and not twisted politically, true and not twisted to justify amorality or immorality, true and not twisted to land government grants…

  8. You are of course 100% correct. But you are spitting in the wind.

    The problem is that the only thing the Bnei Torah on the right hear is what R’ Gedaliah Schorr said at the very beginning of this post: “You know, I was under the impression that we defeated the Greeks!”

    He may not have meant it the way it sounded and in fact approved of his Yeshiva’s high school Limudei Chol curriculum. But the message people hear now in his humorous – almost derisive – response to that MC is that Limudei Chol equals Yavan.

    The challenge of our time is to disabuse those Bnei Torah of that notion. The problem is that there are too many rabbinic leaders on the right who are quite happy with the anti Limudei Chol spirit that pervades the Yeshiva world now. In fact in Israel rabbinic leaders have fought tooth and nail to keep Limudei Chol out of their educational system all while demanding from the government that they be fully funded despite the government’s core curriculum Limudei Chol requirements for funding.

  9. YM says:

    It is hard enough to remember that this world is merely a stage set for mitzvoth performance and observance, gemilus chasadim and the breaking of ones bad middos when one is in the beis medrash full-time; it is extremely difficult to do outside. Perhaps from the perspective of the next world, leaving the beis medrash IS a failure. Take a deep breath and think – maybe the Torah Leaders of Israel realize something that you do not.

  10. Ori says:

    L. Oberstein: I wold love to understand what Brisk offers that has made it the dominant strain in the yeshiva world.

    Ori: Here’s a theory from a cynical outsider. Young, talented Briskers had to go into the yeshiva world. Talented Charedim from other strains had other options. Therefore, Briskers ended up being over-represented as yeshiva teachers, and taught their students their own beliefs. One of the risks of professionalizing education is that you get educators who lack experience other than doing education.

  11. Steve Ehrlich says:

    There is a statistic that seems to get forgotten/ignored in the Orthodox community all too often. The fact is that the average salary of college graduates in the US is about 45% higher then the average salary of high school graduates. It doesnt mean that no HS graduate will ever succeed in business. Many surely will. It means that, overall, your chances of making a decent living are a heck of a lot better if you have a collge degree then if you dont. Thems a fact. Accordingly, any Rosh Yeshiva type who advises bright kids to stay away from the evil colleges is, more likely then not, condemning them to life of relative deprivation. Listening to this “sage” advice has a cost, and its paid by all of us.

  12. Miriam says:

    It is hard enough….in the beis medrash full-time; it is extremely difficult [to keep mitzvos] outside. Perhaps from the perspective of the next world, leaving the beis medrash IS a failure.

    No, no, no! We are not monks!!! Can one of you men please quote some tzena urena or ein yaakov examples to refute this…..?

    One of the risks of professionalizing education is that you get educators who lack experience other than doing education.

    It’s not that – the risk is that the kids who sit in front of educators for 18+ years see educators as their primary role models, professional planning included.

    …any Rosh Yeshiva type who advises bright kids to stay away from the evil colleges is, more likely then not, condemning them to life of relative deprivation.

    Not necessarily “condemning” – they can actually be quite successful if the “relative deprivation” is (a) not so severe and (b) born by both husbands and wives with pride. There’s a third caveat which generally isn’t covered, that there’s a safety net out there – but no one can figure that out since it’s like asking what it means to have “enough” for tomorrow.

  13. Allan Katz says:

    If we check constructivist educational phylosophy we see the ‘ Greeks have adopted the Jewish way of learning .
    The Rabbonim have allies in leading educationalists like Alfie Kohn and Deborah Meier. If you read what they say – what it means to be well educated ‘ – Alfie Kohn article , he is in fact recommending a talmudic sty;e of education – curicullum is not important , it is the thinking , the ability to question and analyze. Deborah Meier says – that learning is essentially talking and teaching is essentially listening , learn in pairs etc .
    If general education were to be taught like Gemmorah in a multi-disciplinary way focusing on questions and discussion rather than remembering facts , there would be more respect for chochma and the ability to intergrate it into Torah. So if Alfie Kohn and Deborah Meier say that general education undermines the love of learning and curiosity , I can’t see any reason to advocate for it . AK and Meier are anti curicullum which would support the anti core curriculum stance taken here in Israel

    Combining secular studies at high school with Torah has big problems – the boys that see a future in learning see secular education as a waste of time , and those who want to go to university see learning as a hurdle in the pursuit of academic success and therefore put academic learning first.

    Professional training is not about education , which is another story

    Allan

  14. Steve Ehrlich says:

    I guess the challenge is to raise children who value both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol. BTW, I need to get into the habit of (re)checking things before I type something. Wikipedia says the mean HS grad salary these days is ~30K, and the mean college graduate salary is ~52K. So its much worse then I thought. If you tell someone not to go to college who can, you will most likely be costing them big bucks. Think about that.

  15. Mark says:

    “Steve Ehrlich
    The fact is that the average salary of college graduates in the US is about 45% higher then the average salary of high school graduates.”

    This statistic says nothing at all about the future success of Yeshivah students who don’t attend college many of whom do exceedingly well in the business world once they decide to enter it. It describes the fate of lower class US citizens who may or may not marry, never did well in school in the first place, is sometimes a criminal and is raised by one parent. That does not describe the average yeshivah student in any way, shape, or form. This is a useless statistic.

  16. Miriam says:

    Mark: It describes the fate of lower class US citizens who may or may not marry, never did well in school in the first place, is sometimes a criminal and is raised by one parent.

    Mark the majority of adults in the US do not have a college education and are included in the HS-only statistic. Many of us public school graduates learned (ran track, played band, etc.) alongside them in high school. Surely you don’t mean to imply that the vast majority of them are half-failures in American society?

  17. Steve Ehrlich says:

    Mark, do you also mean to say that there is no financial advantage to yeshiva students going to college because they’re all so smart anyway? Did I misunderstand you?

  18. Mark says:

    Steve,
    “Mark, do you also mean to say that there is no financial advantage to yeshiva students going to college because they’re all so smart anyway? Did I misunderstand you?”

    Very much so [although I wasn’t as clear as I should have been]. My point is that not attending university is not the sole determinant of one’s future financial success. It is one of MANY factors, among them a few significant one’s that I mentioned along with some others.
    For a number of years I lived in a largely Chassidic community and was blown away by the number of them who spoke pidgin English, couldn’t read or write, yet figured out how earn incredible salaries by starting and managing businesses that don’t require a college degree. I’d venture that if you took a look at the twenty wealthiest Jews in BP, not more than five of them have a degree. I know a number of them personally and English is a language they’re barely conversant in. I’m sure there are plenty of studies that show that English speakers earn significantly more than non-English speakers but that doesn’t take all other factors into account.
    Miriam – I believe my explanation answers your question as well.

  19. Bob Miller says:

    Allan Katz wrote above, “If we check constructivist educational philosophy we see the Greeks have adopted the Jewish way of learning.”

    In many public institutions we seem to have many destructivists among both the student body and faculty.

  20. Tal Benschar says:

    At what point does a focus on the absorption of general knowledge and culture lead us to the point, in Rav Schorr’s words, of providing the Greeks with a belated victory and at what point does it fit into the rubric of chachmah bagoyim ta’amin? Can we establish a quantifiable amount of general knowledge desirable or is it a moving target that depends upon the era and location of the community? At what point do we risk becoming assimilated rather than acculturated?

    I don’t think this is a matter of quantity but a qualitative difference. The Chazal you allude to “chachmah bagoyim ta’amin” has another part, “Torah bagoyim al ta’amin.” What is the difference between chochmah and Torah?

    IMVHO, Torah is something inherently good, whereas chochmah is only an instrument which can be used for good.

    There is an inherent value in knowing Torah, for its own sake, even if there is no practical result. Acc. to R. Chaim Volozhiner, the act of learning Torah is itself an act of deveikus ba Hashem, even if the thing being learned has no practical application (e.g. a mishna in Uktzin). Torah is also the ultimate arbiter of what is good — how to use the chochmah properly.

    Chochma, on the other hand, is value neutral and is inherently neither good nor evil. Consider the invention of the steam engine train. Truly a marvel of engineering, an example of Chochmah ba Goyim. It changed to face of the world. It was used for great good — carrying goods all over the world. But it was also used by the Nazis, yimach shemam, to perpetrate the Holocaust. The trains that carried wheat from the American grain belt to feed half the world and the trains that carried millions to their deaths in the concentration camps used the same chochmah.

    IIRC, the Maharal says that the seven neiros on the Menorah in the Mishkan represent the seven chochmas, with the center one representing the chochmah of Torah. The other six face the middle (el mul pnei ha Menorah yairu shivas ha Neiros) to show that the other Chochmahs must be subservient to and guided by the Torah.

  21. Julie says:

    The reality is, though, that the average person won’t (and isn’t even trying to) become fabulously wealthy. What is needed is a way for people to have a respectable, legal way to make a decent living. For every Horatio Alger story, there are probably tens (if not hundreds) of frum people who are struggling to make it on their own/end up living below the poverty line.
    Not that a college degree is always needed, but the average person needs a set of skills that usually require, at bare minimum, some sort of training.

  22. dr. bill says:

    Tal Beneshar, Cochmah is not just utiltarian. it also includes basic logic and mathematical reasoning that is required to pasken halakha correctly. Note the change in language from the more typical gufai torah to gufai halakha with resepct to kinnim and pischai niddah at the end of the third perek of Pirkei Avot. Both require knowledge of combinatorics – a branch of chochmah – and are still considered gufai halakha. Their theory is gufai Torah (ala the end of the first perek in chagigah), but their practical halakhic application (that depends intrinsically on chokhmah) is still gufai halakha.

    There are numerous examples where errors in mathematics or astronomy led to errors in psak particularly in kinnim (not of practical consequence without a Beit Hamikdash) and zemanim. On the other hand, those rishonim with deep mathematical insight (raavad and rambam to name just two in this area) gave brilliant explanations to mishnayot in kinnim that are rarely understood. Read as well the Gra’s critique of Rabbeinu Tam’s position of chashekha; unlike the baal hatanyah’s critique that was based on observation and traditional sources (geonim and maharam alshakar) in that order, the Gra predominantly used science. Both approaches are gufai halakha.

    Cochmah is not just utilitarian; it is also, on occasion, foundational to halakha.

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